When Your Work Happens Effortlessly

January 31, 2021

When I’m doing creative work that excites me, I can be incredibly productive—without feeling like I’m putting in any effort.

I don’t have to try to focus. I don’t have to discipline myself to avoid distractions. I don’t have to muster any willpower. The work just happens, effortlessly and quickly.

For example, I decided to launch my podcast just over a month ago. Now I have three episodes published with kick-ass guests, with another episode recorded and two more scheduled for recording—also with fantastic guests. I consider that pretty damn productive.

Preparing for a podcast recording takes a lot of work. I do background research on my guests, prepare questions, write up notes, and so on. Editing the podcast takes even more work: I make sure the audio levels are good, I record an introduction of the guest, I edit out delays due to poor Internet connections, et cetera. But these things haven’t felt like work at all. Why is that?

In my latest podcast episode, my guest, Steve Pavlina, refers to the concept of flow. Even if you’ve heard of flow before, you know the feeling: it’s being “in the zone”. Your work simply happens. You don’t have to force anything. No need to make a list or to block off time or to lock yourself into a quiet room.

Understanding what kind of work brings you into that state of flow is incredibly valuable because it is that state that often produces your best work. Can you identify the ingredients that make work feel effortless to you?

For me, the ingredients include doing creative work; feeling challenged without feeling overwhelmed; and not feeling any pressure from deadlines or expectations. This combination of factors usually makes work exciting to me.

Knowing this, I can turn to work that I’ve been resisting and ask: how can I make this work easier, more effortless?

For example, I’ve been analyzing which parts of running my Big-Picture Productivitylive course I enjoy and which parts I don’t. It turns out that the bits I don’t enjoy involve producing, on a deadline, workbooks, slides, and lesson outlines about concepts I’ve already taught a million times. In other words, the characteristics of the work are exactly the opposite of what produces that state of flow for me.

To make the work more effortless, I could remove deadlines; introduce more creativity; and challenge myself more. So that’s what I’ll do next time I run the program.

It’s impossible to make all of your work feel exciting or effortless. Some work will feel tedious no matter what you do. But at least some of your work should generate that feeling of flow—should put you in the zone. If none of your work does, you should re-evaluate your relationship with your work.

And since that’s the topic of my podcast episode with Steve Pavlina, start by listening to what he has to say.

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